The People’s Liberation Army’s first overseas support base is located in the Horn of Africa in Djibouti. The country is next to the Bab el-Mandab Strait that links the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
The logistics center supports anti-piracy, UN peacekeeping, and humanitarian relief missions in both Africa and Western Asia.
“Setting up the support base in Djibouti was a joint decision of the two countries. It will better let China fulfill its responsibilities in the international community,” a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry Geng Shuang said.
Given its strategic location, Bab el-Mandab is called the “throat of the sea.” It provides a lifeline for international oil shipping.
“We have roads that connect East and West Africa. Chosen as a strategic place, we will be a hub for the whole region. So far we are the first outlet to Ethiopia,” said Djiboutian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf.
As piracy increases in Somali waters and the Gulf of Aden, Djibouti’s position has become even more crucial.
Since 2008, under the leadership of the United Nations, more than 20 countries and international organizations have sent warships to the region to fight piracy and escort merchant ships.
“I have participated in four escort missions – with a total of 827 days. During an escort journey, I really wanted a shore leave. Now we have a support base. With these good conditions, the escort officers and soldiers can have a better rest,” Sergeant Major Ma Shilei at Djibouti Support Base noted.
There is a special rule at the facility. All the officers and soldiers must carry a pistol one day in a month. Whether they are eating, working or sleeping. The purpose is to keep them in fighting shape to deal with the complex and severe security situation.
“We have held joint medical rescue drills with foreign troops stationed in Djibouti and the 465 Formation of the European Union. We have also commanded our escort helicopter to take off and land at the base. All of these have improved our logistic support capability,” said Chief of Staff Section Yang Pinghui at Djibouti Support Base.
The U.S. stationed troops in Djibouti after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. France, Italy, and Spain also have bases there. Liang Fang, a military expert earlier told CGTN that China’s support center is different from the Western nations’ military bases.
“It’s mostly used in non-war military operations, to prolong the time our navy has to carry out its missions overseas, so as to safeguard regional peace and stability.”